The show involved two two-member teams, with one member attempting to "buy" prizes for the other from six stores...but the catch is that neither teammate has met each other prior to the show. To help their teammate, the buyee wears a number of different items on their person which serve as clues to their interests and personality, and also strikes a pose to do the same thing.
Each of the six on-set themed "stores"—which changed from day to day—had four possible prizes, with one prize pre-selected by the buyee prior to the show. The buyer runs to each store and attempts to pick out the prize their teammate chose. If their first guess was incorrect, host Ron Pearson read a clue to the right answer and they kept guessing until they found the correct item. The first team set a base time for picking all 6 prizes; the second team then had to beat that time to win. The winning team would then play the "Birthday Party" for a chance at a vacation and $1,000 (sometimes $2,000; see below).
Notable as Wolpert's longest-running show as an independent producer: a whole season-and-a-half! In this case, the show didn't last beyond that due to The Family Channel having been bought out by Rupert Murdoch and unsuccessfully reborn as Fox Family; The New Shop 'Til You Drop got the ax for the same reason.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Audience Game: On some episodes, before the Birthday Party, the winners played an additional mini-game called "Denise/Dennis du Jour's Double Up Derby," in which the "model" for that day's show—chosen from the studio audience—secretly chose an prize from one of the stores, and the team attempted to guess which one s/he chose after hearing a brief bio. Choosing the correct prize awarded it to Denise/Dennis and doubled the prize money in the Birthday Party.
- Bonus Round: The "Birthday Party," in which the winning team was presented with a wall of 13-15 different props and a series of seven celebrity caricatures, for whom the team had to determine which item was a appropriate "gift" (e.g. a pair of tap shoes for Gene Kelly, a film reel for Roger Ebert). Each right guess was worth $100, correctly guessing all 7 gifts in 75 seconds or less won the team a vacation and $1,000 (or $2,000 if the Double-Up Derby was won, as described above).
- Losing Horns: A Wolpert staple; they went with a comical Type A broken up into pieces.
- The Announcer: Burton Richardson, who had also announced for Wolpert's Rodeo Drive.
- Game Show Host: Comedian Ron Pearson; he had hosted the short-lived Wolpert game Skedaddle in 1988 (a co-production with Hanna-Barbera), and also hosted the 2002 pilot Casino (Merrill Heatter's attempt to reboot Gambit for the 2000s, which would evolve into Catch 21).
- Lovely Assistant: A subversion in "Denise/Dennis du Jour," a member of the studio audience who receives $100 to show off the day's stores (and, as described above, occasionally win one of them him/herself). Also an example of Audience Participation.
This show provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Shopping Spree.
- Animated Credits Opening
- The Cast Show Off: Pearson would almost always show off his sleight-of-hand and/or juggling skills during the end credits, using props from the Birthday Party.
- Mythology Gag: A couple of references to Wolpert's earlier game Whew!:
- Before the shopping spree began, Pearson would instruct the buyee to step to one side and form a "gauntlet" for their teammate to run through.
- Before Denise/Dennis du Jour's Double Up Derby, Pearson would make a sarcastic comment about the extremely large salary of $100 that they were paid, after which Denise/Dennis would hold out a card with an equally sarcastic response—similar to what the Gauntlet of Villains did.
- The design of the celebrities in the Birthday Party- cutout-type figures that popped up and down, rendered in an odd, pencil-y drawing style- were also very reminiscent of the designs for the characters in the Gauntlet of Villains (though the Gauntlet guys only move their arms).